WASHINGTON - President Obama is "absolutely committed to moving forward" with comprehensive immigration reform, Vice President Joe Biden told a frustrated group of Hispanic leaders Monday.
Biden and his wife, Jill, spoke at a Hispanic Heritage Month reception at their Naval Observatory residence.
Leaders in the Hispanic community have grown increasingly frustrated with the president for his hesitation to take unilateral steps that might slow deportations or expand the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally who are given permission to stay. Mr. Obama had been promising executive action by the end of summer, but the White House said in early September that he would delay any announcements until after the midterm election.
Biden told the audience that Mr. Obama was determined to move ahead "with or without" Congress and "if they don't get something done by the end of this year, the president's going to do it."
"I know you're all waiting and you're frustrated," he said. "Watch when this election is over, watch what happens when all of a sudden out friends in the other team realize their prospects for future electoral success hinge upon acting rationally. They will either act rationally, or we will act for them, and if we have to act for them, they will not be around a whole lot longer to act in large numbers."
Biden also paid tribute to Hispanic education administrators and counselors, calling them "heroes in the classroom and community."
He said the "brilliance and potential of the Hispanic community" will help move American forward, noting that one in four students in pre-K through 12th grade are Hispanic.
Biden thanked the education advocates for their work to increase Hispanic college enrollment and decreasing the high school drop out rate, which he said had fallen by 30 percent since the president took office.
Guests at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios and voter advocate Henry Munoz.